Montesquieu

The clergy had cause to regret the pro­tec­tion it had gran­ted to the chil­dren of Louis the Debonaire. That prince, as I have said, had never given1 pre­cep­tions of Church pro­per­ties to lay­men ; but soon Lothaire in Italy and Pépin in Aquitaine aban­do­ned Charlemagne’s plan and rever­ted to Charles Martel’s. The eccle­sias­tics had recourse to the empe­ror against his chil­dren ; but they them­sel­ves had wea­ke­ned the autho­rity to which they were appea­ling. In Aquitaine they sho­wed some condes­cen­sion ; in Italy they did not obey.

The civil wars which had trou­bled the life of Louis the Debonaire were the seeds of those that fol­lo­wed his death. The three bro­thers, Lothaire, Louis, and Charles, each sought to attract the impor­tant men to their party, and to make some crea­tu­res of their own. They gave to those who were willing to fol­low them pre­cep­tions of Church pro­per­ties ; and to win over the nobi­lity, they deli­ve­red the clergy to them.

We see in the capi­tu­la­ries that these prin­ces were obli­ged to yield to the impor­tu­nity of the demands,2 which often wres­ted from them what they would not willin­gly have gran­ted ; we also see that the clergy belie­ved itself more oppres­sed by the nobi­lity than by the kings. It fur­ther appears that it was Charles the Bald3 who most atta­cked the patri­mony of the clergy, whe­ther because he was the most irri­ta­ted against them, since they had humi­lia­ted his father on his account, or because he was the most timid. Be that as it may, in the capi­tu­la­ries we see ongoing quar­rels bet­ween the clergy which was clai­ming its pro­perty, and the nobi­lity which was refu­sing, elu­ding, or put­ting off res­to­ring them, and the kings bet­ween the two.4

To see the state of things in those times is a spec­ta­cle wor­thy of pity. While Louis the Debonaire was making immense dona­tions from his domains to the chur­ches, his chil­dren were dis­tri­bu­ting the clergy’s pro­per­ties to lay­men. Often the same hand that was foun­ding new abbeys was des­poi­ling the old ones. The clergy had no fixed sta­tus : it had things taken away, it reco­ve­red them ; but the crown was always losing.

Toward the end of Charles the Bald’s reign and since that reign, dis­pu­tes bet­ween the clergy and lay­men over res­ti­tu­tion of the Church’s pro­per­ties became a thing of the past. The bishops indeed utte­red a few sighs in their remons­tran­ces to Charles the Bald which we find in the capi­tu­lary of the year 856 and in the let­ter which they wrote to Louis the German in 8585 ; but they were pro­po­sing such things, and clai­ming pro­mi­ses so often elu­ded, that it is clear they had no expec­ta­tion of obtai­ning them.

There was scar­cely any fur­ther ques­tion of redres­sing in gene­ral the dama­ges done in the Church and in the state.6 The kings com­mit­ted them­sel­ves not to take their free men from the leu­des, and no lon­ger to give away Church pro­per­ties with pre­cep­tions,7 so the clergy and the nobi­lity see­med to share the same inte­rests.

The strange rava­ges of the Normans, as I have said, contri­bu­ted greatly to put­ting an end to these quar­rels.

The kings, less cre­di­ble by the day, and for the rea­sons I have sta­ted and the ones I shall state, belie­ved they had no choice avai­la­ble but to put them­sel­ves into the hands of the eccle­sias­tics. But the clergy had wea­ke­ned the kings, and the kings had wea­ke­ned the clergy.

In vain did Charles the Bald and his suc­ces­sors call on the clergy to sup­port the state and pre­vent its fall ; in vain did they invoke the res­pect which the peo­ple had for that body to main­tain that which they should have for them8 ; in vain did they seek9 to lend autho­rity to their laws by that of the canons ; in vain did they add eccle­sias­ti­cal penal­ties to civil penal­ties10 ; in vain did they, to coun­ter­ba­lance the count’s autho­rity, give to each bishop the title of their envoy in the pro­vin­ces11 : it was impos­si­ble for the clergy to repair the damage it had done ; and a strange mis­for­tune, to which I shall soon come, sent the crown tum­bling to the ground.

See what the bishops say in the synod of the year 845 apud Teudonis Villam, art. 4.

See synod of the 845 apud Teudonis Villam, art. 3–4, which describes very well the state of things, as well as the one of the same year held at the Palais de Vernes, art. 12, and the synod of Beauvais again of the same year, art. 3, 4, and 6, and the capitulary in Villa Sparnaco, year 846, art. 20, and the letter of the bishops assembled bishops at Reims in 858 to Louis the German, art. 8.

See the capitulary in Villa Sparnaco, year 846. The nobility had provoked the king against the bishops, so he expelled them from the assembly ; they chose some canons of synods, and declared to them that they would be the only ones that would be observed ; they granted them only what it was impossible to refuse them. See art. 20–22. See also the letter of the bishops assembled bishops at Reims in 858 to Louis the German, art. 8, and the edict of Pistres, year 864, art. 5.

See the same capitulary of the year 846 in Villa Sparnaco. See also capitulary of the assembly held apud Marsnam in the year 847, art. 4, in which the clergy fell back to asking to be put back into possession of everything it had enjoyed under the reign of Louis the Debonaire. See also capitulary of the year 851 apud Marsnam, art. 6–7, which maintains the nobility and the clergy in their possessions ; and the one apud Bonoilum in the year 856, which is a remonstrance of the bishops to the king on the failure to repair the damage done after so many new laws ; and finally the letter of the bishops assembled bishops at Reims in 858 to Louis the German, art. 8.

Art. 8.

See capitulary of the year 851, art. 6–7.

Charles the Bald, in the synod of Soissons, says that “he had promised the bishops to give no more preceptions of Church properties” (capitularies of year 853, art. 11, Baluze ed., vol. II, p. 56).

See the capitulary of Charles the Bald, apud Saponarias of the year 859, art. 3. “Venilon, whom I had made archbishop of Sens, consecrated me ; and I was to be driven out of the realm by no one : saltem sine audientia et judicio Episcoporum, quorum ministerio in Regem sum consecratus, et qui Throni Dei sunt dicti, in quibus Deus sedet, et per quos sua decernit judicia ; quorum paternis correctionibus et castigatoriis judiciis me subdere fui paratus, et in præsenti sum subditus.

See the capitulary of Charles the Bald, de Carisiaco, of the year 857, Baluze ed., vol. II, p. 88, art. 1–4 and 7.

See the synod of Pistres in the year 862, art. 4, and the capitulary of Carloman and of Louis II apud Vernis Palatium, year 883, art. 4–5.

Capitulary of the year 876 under Charles the Bald, in Synodo Pontigonensi, Baluze ed., art. 12.